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Papers of Edwin Montagu, Part II

  • MONT II
  • Archief
  • 1889-1968

This collection, the second accession of Montagu papers received at Trinity, comprises papers of Edwin Montagu himself, with various related additions. It includes correspondence between Montagu and his wife Venetia, both before and after their marriage; telegraphic correspondence between Montagu, as Secretary of State for India, and the Viceroys Lord Chelmsford and Lord Reading; parts of Montagu’s second Indian Diary; letters from Montagu to his mother and father, Lord and Lady Swaythling; and a few letters to Montagu from various correspondents, including H. H. Asquith, Winston Churchill, and members of the Stanley family. The items added after Montagu’s death include press-cuttings of obituaries, and correspondence about the sorting of the papers in the 1950s.

Montagu, Edwin Samuel (1879-1924), politician

Letter from Venetia Stanley to Edwin Montagu

Alderley Park, Chelford, Cheshire.—Denies calling him priggish, and refers to a joke played on Meiklejohn.

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Transcript

Alderley Park, Chelford, Cheshire
Tuesday April 4th 1911

My dear Mr Montagu

What is all this about. It sounds (I mean the P.S. of your letter {1}) as tho’ you were indirectly taxing me with having said you were heygate and priggish, or is it an April Fool’s day joke, for I notice its written on the 1st. If it is the former of these two I have, for once, got such a clear conscience that I havent had a tremor of uneasiness. Probably its neither but another of your tortuous deductions from 2 stray words and as usual hopelessly wrong.

Did you hear of the excellent joke we played on Mr Meiklejohn, I havent yet heard how he took it.

I am practising chess with vigour, I hope to beat you again when I next meet you.

Yrs very sincerely
Venetia Stanley

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{1} This letter does not survive.

Letter from Venetia Stanley to Edwin Montagu

Alderley Park, Chelford, Cheshire.—Asks how is feeling after his Budget speech. Is spending two quiet days with her family. Her father says that Arnold is not to be invited again.

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Transcript

Alderley Park, Chelford, Cheshire
Thursday 27th July 1911

My dear Mr Montagu

Are nt you glad its over, specially as after all your doubts and misgivings it has been a success {1}. Were you miserable the whole time you were speaking or was it rather fun.

I came here yesterday as I had meant to and have got 2 peaceful days with my family in front of me. You would have been very much amused if you could have heard the very uncompromising and Roman line which my father took up about Arnold. He said “I wish it to be clearly understood that Arnold is never to be asked here again” It made me rather regret not having dined with him on Wednesday after all. I stayed at Taplow instead.

I do hope nothing very wonderful and thrilling will happen when I am abroad, will you write me a graphic account if anything does?

Yrs
Venetia Stanley

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{1} The reference is to Montagu's speech in the Commons the previous day introducing the Indian Budget. See The Times, 27 July 1911, p. 8, and Hansard.

Letter from Venetia Stanley to Edwin Montagu

Tilstone Lodge, Tarporley, Cheshire.—Refers to the result of the South Somerset by-election. She and Oliver are staying with neighbours to hunt.

(Dated Friday.)

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Transcript

Tilstone Lodge, Tarporley, Cheshire
Friday

My dear Mr Montagu

I enclose 10/ which unfortunately I owe you for Somerset {1}. At one moment I thought I should be glad if Aubrey got in, and was prepared to be most sympathetic if he lost, but I’m miserable that we should have lost another good seat. He wont keep it tho’ I’m sure.

Oliver and I are staying away with neighbours {2} (not the Pride of Cheshire {3} tho’ I saw her to day) to hunt. It isnt very amusing and I regret the peace and chess of Alderley which is replaced by endless bridge and inane conversation about our other neighbours. Oliver frets under it too, even more than I do as he is less well socially trained. Alderley looms like a haven tomorrow.

Dinner now, I’m far too sleepy and tired for it.

Yrs
Venetia Stanley

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{1} Venetia and Edwin had apparently had a wager on the result of the South Somerset by-election on 21 November, in which Aubrey Herbert, the Unionist candidate, defeated Henry Vivian, the Liberal, by the narrow margin of 4,878 votes to 4,730. The seat had previously been held by for the Liberals since 1892 by Sir Edward Strachey, but it became vacant on his elevation to the peerage.

{2} Tilstone Lodge was the home of Charles Threlfall and his family.

{3} Barbara Tomkinson, daughter of James Tomkinson of Willington Hall, Tarporley.

Letter from Venetia Stanley to Edwin Montagu

18 Mansfield Street, Portland Place, W.—Is unable to see him for tea tomorrow, but suggests other arrangements. She and Violet had a useful morning, thanks to the loan of Montagu’s motor-car.

(Dated Monday.)

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Transcript

18 Mansfield Street, Portland Place, W.
Monday

I stupidly forgot when I said I would be in to tea tomorrow after seeing Olive off, that I had already arranged to play tennis with Cynthia from 4 till 5, and at 5.30 I’ve got the Gnome. Could you come either Wednesday 6.30 or Thursday at 6? Let me know which, if either, of these fit in with your other many and complicated plans.

Violet and I had a very useful morning, owing to the invaluable assistance that was given us by the motor. Thank you so much.

Yrs
Venetia Stanley

Letter from Venetia Stanley to Edwin Montagu

Alderley Park, Chelford, Cheshire.—Invites him to Alderley. They go to Holyhead (i.e. Penrhôs) on the 21st.

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Transcript

Alderley Park, Chelford, Cheshire

Dear Mr Montagu

I wonder whether you can ever get away over Sunday. If it is possible do come here for one Sunday, after the 21st we go to Holyhead which is rather less easy to get at, but nicer when one is there. I hope you’ll be able to manage one day.

Yrs very sincerely
Venetia Stanley

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On the back are some pencil notes, apparently for a speech.

Letter from Venetia Stanley to Edwin Montagu

18 Mansfield Street, Portland Place, W.—Invites him to lunch, if he is not still at Cambridge. Has just come from Alderley. Is glad he liked the extract, though it was meant to arrive today, for his birthday.

(Dated Tuesday.)

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Transcript

18 Mansfield Street, Portland Place, W.
Tuesday

My dear Tante

Will you lunch on Thursday if you are not at Cambridge? Have you had fun there up to now. I had a glacial 3 days at Alderley and now am fixed here for ever, thank God.

Yours
Venetia Stanley

I am glad you liked the extract I sent you, it was meant to reach you on your birthday (to-day isnt it, very many happy returns of it) and to show you that your large band of warm admirers were still thinking of you.

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Black-edged paper.

Letter from Venetia Stanley to Edwin Montagu

18 Mansfield Street, Portland Place, W.—Asks him to lend his Baedeker for Sicily to her father. Is sorry he was unhappy about his speech; everyone else thought it good. Invites him to lunch or tea.

(Dated Tuesday.)

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Transcript

18 Mansfield Street, Portland Place, W.
Tuesday

I wonder whether you still have in your possession your Sicilian Baedeker! If you have will you lend it to my father who is going there soonish. He is of an economical turn of mind and doesnt like the idea of getting a new one. Strange old fellow.

I am so sorry you were unhappy about your speech. Because everyone else really did think it good. The P.M. Margot etc, but of course if you were not satisfied about it, the fact that other people thought it good is not much comfort.

Do come here one day, tea lateish Friday, I mean about 6 or if you’d rather, lunch, not Thursday. I hate lunch, but possibly its your easiest moment. How wonderful the Prime was

Yrs
Venetia Stanley

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Black-edged paper.

Letter from Venetia Stanley to Edwin Montagu

18 Mansfield Street, Portland Place, W.—Repays a gambling debt. Would like to see him when he gets back from his ‘tour in the West’ .

(Dated Tuesday.)

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Transcript

18 Mansfield Street, Portland Place, W.
Tuesday

My dear Tante

I’ve never paid you the vast sum I lost to you when we were abroad. I cant remember exactly how much it was and the P.M. tells me he has destroyed the paper, but it was either £12 or £13. so will you fill up this cheque and pay yourself.

Come and see me when you get back from your little tour in the West. I hope its being a success. If you dont go to the Cuckoo’s Nest this Sunday {1} and are in London perhaps we might do something on Sunday afternoon.

The Nest is quite nice, but the weather was vile.

Yrs
Venetia Stanley

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Black-edged paper.

{1} 3 March.

Letter from Venetia Stanley to Edwin Montagu

Alderley Park, Chelford, Cheshire.—Invites him to go with her party to the Grand National. Is sorry he won’t be in the same house as Winston for Easter.

(Dated Sunday.)

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Transcript

Alderley Park, Chelford, Cheshire
Sunday

My dear Mr Montagu

It will be very nice if you will come to the Grand National with us {1}. We are not going to the smartest places but to the Grand Stand. I shall go from London on Friday. I dont know in the least how we get home.

I am sorry you wont be in the same house as Winston for Easter, but I daresay he wont come either.

Yrs very sincerely
Venetia Stanley

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{1} In 1911 the Grand National took place on Friday, 24 March; in 1912 on Friday, 29 March.

Letter from Venetia Stanley to Edwin Montagu

Penrhôs, Holyhead.—Is about to set off for Alderley. Thanks him for the present, which she will always wear. If he comes to Alderley he will meet the Pride of Cheshire.

(Dated Wednesday.)

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Transcript

Penrhôs, Holyhead
Wednesday

One lightening† line before we start off to motor to Alderley to thank you a thousand times for the most lovely present you sent me. I shall always wear it, tho’ I’m afraid that I cant possibly hope every† to reach the Everest pinnacle of beauty which the picture you sent represents. She is just like the heroine of a magazine story, and therefore dazzling.

I am miserable at leaving this place.

Are you coming to Alderley or not, over Sunday. Could you send me a telegram there tomorrow, you will meet the Pride of Cheshire if you come.

I meant to answer your letter, but shall be able to do so verbally if you come.

Yrs
Venetia Stanley {1}

If you can come try and get away Friday evening by the 6 o’clock train to Wilmslow. Its far the best

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Written in pencil.

{1} Followed by ‘over’, written at the foot of a page.

† Sic.

Letter from Venetia Stanley to Edwin Montagu

Vinters, Maidstone.—Invites him to see her after the first performance of Maurice’s play. Is having to spend the weekend with ‘a newly married couple and a blind paralytic’. Hopes Montagu’s meeting was a success.

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Transcript

Vinters, Maidstone
Sunday May 5th 1912

My dear Mr Montagu

Yes do come Tuesday at about 5.30. I am going to the 1st Performance of Maurice’s play {1} in the afternoon, and might not be back by 5 o’clock. Mr Asquith & Eliza motored me here in pouring rain yesterday and left me to one of the hardest imaginable fates. I dont suppose ever before anyone has had to had to spend a dripping Saturday to Monday in the company of a newly married couple and a blind paralytic. Not even Waxworks.

An ornithological clergyman came to dinner and afterwards we played a gambling game for counters! I am having a delicious morning tho’, and am wondering how much longer I can stay in my room without incivility. Chess with Lady Agnes is the alternative to “Cotton Wool” and lots of letters which I want and ought to write.

I hope your meeting was a success. I dont know what will happen this afternoon. The best I can hope for is to motor to Canterbury. The worst a long walk with Waxworks; who I believe is arriving this morning.

I make a fuss but I am not really miserably unhappy.

Yrs
Venetia Stanley

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Written in pencil.

{1} Maurice Baring’s play The Double Game, at the Kingsway Theatre.

Letter from Venetia Stanley to Edwin Montagu

18 Mansfield Street, Portland Place, W.—Invites him to join her ‘anti-yacht’ party at Penrhôs at Whitsuntide. Asks whether he has managed to convert Violet to Dorothy’s cause (i.e. temperance). Is seeing Sir Herbert and Lady Jekyll this afternoon, and dining with Geoffrey and Captain Guest.

(Dated Sunday.)

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Transcript

18 Mansfield Street, Portland Place, W.
Sunday

I am starting an anti-yacht party at Whitsuntide, just to show them that in spite of Winston its still possible to have fun in England. Will you come? Either for actual Whitsunday itself {1} or for the following week, which ever suits you best, {2} or both. Dont say you are going to Geneva for the Alpine Crow or to Italy with Geoffrey because you really are pledged (ever since last summer) to come to Penrhos. Its the nicest time of year there and ought to be delicious. There is only one legitimate excuse for you and that is if they after all dont go on the yacht and you want to go somewhere with the Prime.

Have you managed, on this glorious day, to convert Violet to Dorothys cause {3}? I’m afraid it will be difficult.

It is a waste being in London. I am reduced to Kew with Sir Herbert and Lady Jekyll this afternoon, and Geoffrey and Captain Guest to dinner.

Yrs
Venetia

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{1} 26 May.

{2} Comma supplied. The next two words are interlined.

{3} i.e. temperance. Dorothy Howard’s mother, the Countess of Carlisle, was a prominent temperance reformer.

Letter from Venetia Stanley to Edwin Montagu

18 Mansfield Street, Portland Place, W.—Oliver cannot come on Monday. Hopes that Simon does not go to the War Office. Is planning to see Excie’s vote of censure tomorrow. The Prime Minister looks well; it is fun that they (the yachting party) are back. Asks after Violet.

(Dated Tuesday.)

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Transcript

18 Mansfield Street, Portland Place, W.
Tuesday

My dear Tante

You very kindly said I might bring Oliver with me on Monday but I’ve heard from him that he is already engaged that evening It was very nice of you to ask him. I am vainly trying to arrange some fun for him when he is here, but its very difficult as he knows and likes so very few people.

I do hope Seely doesnt go to the War Office, dont you? It isnt a very glittering selection to choose from is it? Couldnt Simon go?

I am trying to go to the House tomorrow to hear Excie’s vote of censure Will the P.M. speak. I saw him for an instant I think he looks very well. It is fun that they are back. Did you have a good talk to Violet.

This letter is a series of questions.

Yrs
Venetia Stanley

Telegram from Venetia Stanley to Edwin Montagu

Holyhead.—Is sad he can’t come.

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Transcript

Office of origin: Holyhead
Handed in at:
6-57 p
Received here at:
7-45 p

To: Hon Edwin Montagu | 59 Pall Mall Ld[n]

So sad you cant come. have written.
V. S.

[Office stamp:] CHARLES ST | * | JY 17 | 12 | HAYMARKET.S.W.

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A printed sheet, filled up by hand in pencil.

Letter from Venetia Stanley to Edwin Montagu

Alderley Park, Chelford, Cheshire.—Responds to his letter from Port Said (B1/54). Is helping with a children’s play. Refers to their current guests, and to her visit to the United Kingdom Alliance bazaar at Manchester. Sends news of the Prime Minister and other friends.

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Transcript

Alderley Park, Chelford, Cheshire

October 23rd 1912 (Oliver’s birthday)

Thank you for a letter from Port Said {1}. I am sorry you were being so much bored by your journey, and not even able to muster up sufficient energy to embark on the glorious, tho’ stodgy list we gave you. Isnt Marriage {2} good, I think it is much the best he has written, I am glad you read Lycidas again. I was afraid that by insisting on reading it to you I should have for ever have put you against it. Mikky thinks it is the best poem in the whole of the English language, and knows it by heart. Have you come across some rather nice, coloured, fruity ones in the Oxford Bk by Andrew Marvell {3}.

My life has continued in the same peaceful, uneventful way, since I last wrote to you, I have hunted once, but otherwise I havent seen a soul except father and mother, and not much of them as most of the time I was quite alone. I do love it, and really resented their return and the necessity of spending more than 5 minutes on lunch or 5 on dinner. I have got so used to myself, and when I am alone like myself so very much and have such fun and am so amusing to myself!

I have been very busy and for almost the first time in my life have had too much to do and not enough time to do it in. This is, I suppose, too often the case with you, for you to realize what a glorious sensation it is, it is my idea of one kind of happiness. My character has completely changed and you will hardly know me when you come back, I have developped† a sense of parochial responsibility and am becoming a thorough busy-body. The only thing that saves me from drifting into a life of Girls Clubs and sewing classes is firstly that I do it extremely badly and secondly that I am not here long enough on end. But I am doing my best and have 8 school children once a week to rehearse a children’s play and the rest of the time I am engaged on stitching vast Persian trowsers for them to wear. It absorbs all my interest and thought and I forget that no one else can possibly care a damn about it, and inflict it on people as I have done on you. Our solitude has been broken into by the arrival of an Admiral and his wife, 2 neighbours, your friend Mr Milne and an energetic woman called Mrs Grosvenor who is going to deliver a lecture on the advantages that an educated woman would have if she were to emigrate to Canada. That really means I suppose the chance of marrying some dreary fruit farmer, who is just rather less beastly than the other people out there. I should hate to be an educated woman in Canada.

Violet did chuck the United K. A. {4} she wrote and explained to Dorothy what her temperance principles were and after hearing them Dorothy said she would rather not have her. We went and bought things from her and found her in the most dismal surroundings with Aurea as her only human comfort. I had never seen A. before, she is hideous, and Dorothy treats her as tho’ she were a half-wit. I did feel sorry for her, she can have not a particle of fun in her life.

Dorothy was brisk and business-like and quite unselfpitying (if I had been in her shoes I should have groused to everyone about the horror of it) realising how damnable a Manchester bazaar was, but just doing it because it had to be done.

The P.M. has been quite ill with a boil on his shoulder, but is better again now, I havent seen him but I am thinking of going up to London next week, if I can get out of my groove, and I shall then perhaps see him. Mikky and Bongie come here the Sunday after {5}. Doesnt it seem odd to you to think of us all doing the same old things and seeing the same people over and over again, when you are in much a different atmosphere. You must now rather sympathise with Margot’s boredom at the regularity and unchangingness of our lives.

I meant at the beginning of this letter to tell you that I had a very bad cold, not so as to try and get a little sympathy 3 weeks hence, but so as to warn you that it would be dull, foggy reading, and to advise you not to embark on it unless you were feeling very charitable, but by the time you read this warning you will be near the end.

I must stop now, as considering the material at my disposal I have written far too much already.

Perhaps if I write again I shall have something more interesting to tell you about than what I have been doing here.

Yrs
Venetia

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{1} MONT II B1/54.

{2} A novel by H. G. Wells, first published in 1912.

{3} The Oxford Book of English Verse (1900) contains seven poems by Marvell, as well as Milton’s ‘Lycidas’.

{4} Dorothy Howard had asked Violet Asquith to open a bazaar at Manchester in aid of the United Kingdom Alliance, a temperance organization. See Lantern Slides, pp. 337-8.

{5} 3 November.

Letter from Venetia Stanley to Edwin Montagu

Alderley Park, Chelford, Cheshire.—Sends news of the Asquiths, whom she saw in London, and other friends. Is going to learn fencing, and has been skating and hunting. Urges him to check the untruths spread by the Eye Witness and Belloc. Will return to London after the Pride of Cheshire’s wedding.

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Transcript

Alderley Park, Chelford, Cheshire
Nov 6th 1912 Wednesday

Thank you for a letter (if you can call such a sparse communication one!) written just before reaching Bombay {1}. I got the impression that your journey had gone on being fairly dull all the time.

I spent most of last week in London, staying at Downing St. I saw not very much of the P.M. Do you remember saying how much he varied in his liking for me, and that sometimes he quite liked me and at others not at all, well this was one of the not at all times. He was horribly bored by my constant presence at breakfast, lunch and dinner (Oliver interrupts me to play chess, I hope I shall beat him). He seemed much better tho’ and said his shoulder didnt hurt him at all and he was playing golf regularly. I was very glad to see the old boy again, he is quite one of my favorite people. Margot was very funny, Violet said she had been rather complaining and crusty lately and still very much against Violet’s and my habit of seeing and liking to see our friends rather than our acquaintances. The first day I was there I was slightly crushed, or should have been if it had been anyone but Margot, by her saying to me when we were out together. “I cant tell you how sick I get of seeing your face, I can cry sometimes at the sight of you and Bluey and Bongie and Violet together.” Poor Margot I am very sorry for her as she certainly does have to see it pretty often. You will be a Godsend to her when you come back after 5 months absence, we shall almost be able to pretend that you are an acquaintance and be able to see you without bringing down on our heads this storm of abuse. Beyond this she was very nice to me. I have only once resented anything that Margot said to me and that only because I was in as nervy a condition as she was, which was when she told me I had on purpose poisoned Violet with veronal at Archerfield just after Archie died! It makes me laugh now, but I never felt more miserable than I did at the moment.

Violet was very anxious to have a months training at the London Hospital and go out and nurse the Bulgars, they are all the most violent Bulgophils. Her father as you can imagine was highly unsympathetic about this. They used to discuss it every morning at breakfast. She says all her friends except Edgar have shown the greatest lack of understanding and immagination† about her desire to do this and she is thinking of writing a play exposing them all. Conversation with her has become rather difficult as she is learning Italian from a certain Signor Rossi who comes twice a week. She knows far more, after 2 lessons than I did after 6 months Berlitz so dont ever again say that her brains arent in every way superlatively good. What ruins her conversation is that as soon as one is alone with her she starts conjugating “Essere” or “Avere” or repeating the days of the week. Perhaps this partly explains the immense progress. I saw hardly anyone in London except Geoffrey for one instant at the House, he is coming here tomorrow, also Violet, Raymond Katharine, Bluey, Hugh and Dudley Ward. Dadley† Ward I have not yet seen, I hear he is in wonderful spirits and looks 20 years younger and that he told you that women were the most unaccountable creatures. Bongie and Mikky were here over Sunday, Mikky was in his most sympathetic and inarticulate mood, he was able to exercise his sympathy on Huck who was very ill, and on me for minding about him. Bongie is learning french, whith which he makes slow progress, partly because his teacher gives him nothing but the most obscure and useless verbs, ones which I have spoken french for 20 years without using, to learn. I cant keep pace with this desire for education which is spreading from Downing St, but I am going to learn to fence as soon as I go to London next week, and on Monday I skated in Manchester and had a lesson. I hunted yesterday for the first time, I had forgotten how glorious it was, my only horse is lame tho’. I tell you this because you have always been very sympathetic and interested (or feigned it successfully) in my stable troubles.

As for the “Eye Witness” and Belloc I wish you would go for them and hound them out of existence. Not that it much matters what lies they tell, for not a soul believes them, but no one thinks it worth while to notice what they say, the result is a riot of untruth which goes on unchecked week after week.

Did you see that dear little Bluey got terribly laughed at when answering some of your questions for his clerical manner?

Whilst your letters get shorter & shorter mine seem to lengthen every time I write, we must try a more even distribution. Write a long account of what you are doing and I will cease to give you such minute accounts of what I have said and done.

I go to London Tuesday, after the Pride of Cheshires wedding {2} (I have managed to get the title Prize of Cheshire bestowed on me by the Prime, as you can well believe this gave rise to a lot of the kind of conversation which he enjoys and which Margot abhors) for 3 weeks.

I must stop.

Goodbye
Venetia

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{1} MONT II B1/55.

{2} Barbara Tomkinson married Captain Walter Thornton Hodgson at St Helen’s, Tarporley, on Tuesday, 12 November. See The Times, 13 Nov., p. 13.

Letter from Venetia Stanley to Edwin Montagu

18 Mansfield Street, Portland Place, W.—Has been told that he will probably not be able to get away for lunch, but asks him to come and see her before she goes.

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Transcript

18 Mansfield Street, Portland Place, W.

I’ve just telephoned to you and they tell me you are very doubtful to be able to get away for lunch, and as I have only such nasty food for you perhaps it would be better if we washed that arrangement. But I should like to see you before I go, so if you are finished and have had food come and see me about 2.45. I go away 3.30.

Venetia

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Black-edged paper.

Letter from Venetia Stanley to Edwin Montagu

18 Mansfield Street, Portland Place, W.—Praises his speech.

(Dated Monday.)

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Transcript

18 Mansfield Street, Portland Place, W.
Monday

I thought your speech most excellent. Very pointful, very funny and dealing unanswerably with all their points.

Marvellous pronunciation too of several “reals” & “reallys”!

Werent you pleased? I am glad I came to hear it.

Yrs
Venetia

Letter from Venetia Stanley to Edwin Montagu

Rounton Grange, Northallerton.—Supposes he will go to the Wharf when he arrives (in England), but asks to see him next week. Bluey and Bongie are coming this evening.

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Transcript

Rounton Grange, Northallerton
Friday March 21st 1913

The Prime tells me you are arriving home today or tomorrow, and so I suppose you will go to the Wharf for Sunday {1}. Dont pour out all the juice and vitriol which you must have collected during the last six months. I shall be back Monday or Tuesday, Tuesday most likely, do come and see me sometime before dinner, I am dining earlyish at Downing St. I long to hear every-thing that you’ve done, it will be an act of charity on your part, as I am supposed to be lame and to do nothing.

Its cold and dull here but the arrival of Bluey and Bongie this evening may improve matters.

It will be great fun seeing you again.

Yrs
Venetia

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{1} i.e. for Easter.

Letter from Venetia Stanley to Edwin Montagu

Alderley Park, Chelford, Cheshire.—Invites him to dine in London on Sunday. Is going to Tilstone Lodge tomorrow to hunt. Hopes he had fun in Spain. Sends birthday greetings.

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Transcript

Alderley Park, Chelford, Cheshire
Feb 5th 1914

Will you dine on Sunday evening {1} if you are in London. If you get this before Saturday 3 P.M. send me a line or telegram to Tilstone Lodge, Tarporley, Cheshire, where I go tomorrow to hunt, till Saturday night.
I hope you can come. I hope you had fun in Spain.

Yrs
Venetia

Very many happy returns of tomorrow. Every wish for your ? year.

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{1} 8th.

Letter from Venetia Stanley to Edwin Montagu

(London Hospital, Whitechapel.)—(17th.) She enjoyed their meeting this afternoon and is sorry she gets so little time away from work.—(18th.) She may not be able to lunch with him on Saturday, so encourages him to go to Walmer if he wants to.

(Dated Wednesday and Thursday.)

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Transcript

Wednesday evening

Dearest {1} I was very glad to see you again this afternoon, but, (& I dont want to draw a pathetic picture of my lot, because it doesnt in the least take you in, tho’ I do also think if you really knew what its like you’d think one had every cause to be wretched, but I’m not) I dont think you can realise what a very little way 3 hours 3 times a week goes, particularly when nearly an hour of that time must be spent in dressing & in getting to & from this place. So much as I should like to see you every day it cant be done. But of course I think it divine of you to want it.

I got back just in time, and did two hours “work” & then went to a foolish lecture & now after some talk with other “nurses” over a box of biscuits must put out the light & pretend at any rate that I’m fast asleep. I’ll finish in the morning.

6.40 Thursday (does that wring your heart at all?)

I’ve looked at this piece of paper & the above line for about 5 minutes, but as might be expected my head is an entire void. Today doesnt present a very attractive appearance to me, not even the hope of seeing Reggie, & the only very faint one of seeing him tomorrow. I’ll send you a telegram Saturday if I can lunch, but if you dont hear you’ll know that I cant get away. I’m more than doubtful so dont not go to Walmer or anywhere else on the chance.

Perhaps I’ll write a line tomorrow.

Venetia

Why dont you ever write to me, damn you? Even if only to curse me it gives me something to collect when I go for my letters. Just going out 9·15.

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Written in pencil. Written at the London Hospital, Whitechapel.

{1} This is the earliest extant letter in which Venetia addressed Montagu in this way.

{2} She had probably been to Montagu’s house for tea. See A1/104.

Letter from Venetia Stanley to Edwin Montagu

36 Smith Square, Westminster.—Discusses arrangements for meeting.

(Undated.)

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Transcript

36 Smith Square, Westminster

I’m terribly afraid tomorrow is bound to be a failure, but if you liked, & werent busy wd you pick me up at Mansfield St anytime after a quarter to 11, & not later than 11.15 & we’d drive back together. This is rather a foul suggestion as it entails a long dreary solitary drive for you & I {1} shall more than understand if you say you cant. Perhaps you’d like to let me know as if you werent coming I dont think I should go to Mansfield St at all.

You’d have found Aggie Barbara, Pamela & me if you’d lunched & of course dear Reggie. He was very sweet. If you want to go to Walmer early you will wont you.

I shall see you Wednesday {2} anyway 4.30.

Yrs
Venetia

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Written in two kinds of pencil (see below). Printed in H. H. Asquith: Letters to Venetia Stanley, p. 492.

{1} Up to this point the letter is in lead pencil; the rest is in blue pencil.

{2} 24th.

Letter from Venetia Stanley to Edwin Montagu

Admiralty, Whitehall.—(11th.) Reproaches him for being ‘bloody’ to her, but (12th) urges him to come and see her before dinner.

(Dated Sunday. The postscript was written the following morning.)

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Transcript

Admiralty, Whitehall
Sunday.

How can you be so bloody, & why? Is it merely horror at the old generation when compared with the young. Even Raymond wondered what was the matter.

This is I suppose almost worthy of Margot.

Anyhow one mustnt quarrel, but you were bloody to me.

Venetia

This was the vituperative Margot line I wrote you last night! I still repeat you were bloody, but do dine at Winstons & anyhow come & see me before dinner, anytime after 6.

Venetia

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Written in red pencil. The postscript is on a separate sheet.

Letter from Venetia Stanley to Edwin Montagu

Admiralty, Whitehall.—This weekend has made it difficult for her to continue writing to the Prime Minister as though nothing had happened, but she is anxious to keep them (Montagu and Asquith) both happy. Refers to her plan to go to Serbia. Suggests arrangements for meeting.

(Dated Sunday.)

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Transcript

Alderley Park, Chelford, Cheshire
Sunday.

My darling (you’ll think this I suppose merely a sign that I’m an accommodating woman & ready to comply in small things if it makes you happier) What can I say to you after this short time that you’ve been gone. That I want you back fearfully. Yes I do. And I havent in my time written this to Bongie, the P.M. Raymond and half a dozen others. I suppose it ought not to be necessary for me even to have to affirm this, but I cant help feeling that this idea is often cross-ing your mind, you’ve said it so often, & I’ve always laughed at it as a joke and not minded you thinking it, but I do now.

I know quite well that I want you back again, and I’m only afraid that this feeling will pass. Do you understand me at all. I also know that this Sunday has made it very difficult for me to go on writing to the P.M as tho’ nothing had happened. Darling what am I to do, obviously what I ought to do would be to try & carry on as I’ve been doing, you’ve both been fairly happy under that régime, and as there can be no hard and fast rule of right & wrong and as I feel none of that that people call duty towards themselves, that would be the simplest plan. But are you both happy and can I make you so if I’m not and should I be now?

Then again when to tell him. Just before Newcastle {1}, oh no not then, then just after something else will turn up & if I’m ready to tell him then you (who are far the fonder of him of us two) will have scruples, & so we shall go on till in a short time you’ll loathe me. Why cant I marry you & yet go on making him happy, but you’d neither of you think that fun & I suppose my suggesting it or thinking it possible shows to you how peculiar I am emotionally. I wish to God I’d got a really well defined idea of right & wrong, but nothing that one does to oneself seems wrong and thats how one gets into so infernal a tangle.

You cant help me no one can and if I go to Servia its only really shifting the whole responsibility & giving up.

My very dearest I want so much to see you, I’m rather frightened about what I feel, first lest it shouldnt last, & secondly lest yours shouldnt.

Write to me and say you are coming next Sunday. I want you fearfully.
I am so perplexed & wretched, I want so much to be happy and yet not to make anyone else unhappy. You made everything seem so simple, but now you are gone its as tangled as ever.

Go on loving me & above all make me love you. Perhaps Wednesday may see me in London, but I count on you Friday & we’ll have no nonsense about dinner with Sir E Grey.

Yes you shall you shall dine with him just the same.

Darling I think I love you.

Venetia

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{1} Asquith was to address a meeting of munitions workers at Newcastle on the 20th.

Letter from Venetia Stanley to Edwin Montagu

The British Hospital, Hôtel Bellevue, Wimereux.—(24th.) Describes her journey to Wimereux, her impressions of the hospital, and her timetable of work. There is much discussion of the crisis, and she nearly quarrelled with a doctor who questioned Winston’s sense of decency.—(25th.) The railway and the ambulances are noisy. She has been to Boulogne to see Frances, and has tried to read ‘Joseph’. Is bored by the prospect in front of her, but will soon settle in. Urges him to pass on political gossip and war news.

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Transcript

The British Hospital, Hotel Bellevue, Wimereux
(Not my address | I gave you that didnt I?) {1}
Monday evening May 24th 1915

My darlingest not a vestige of a submarine disturbed our crossing and we arrived safely to find Sir Henry awaiting us on the platform. I couldnt telegraph as it takes hours. We came straight out here. The hospital is a rather squalid hotel in a street facing onto a small river, but one sees the sea not 300 yards away. I’ve not looked into the wards yet, but start tomorrow. Its much less arduous than the London breakfast at 7.30 instead of 6.30 and supper 8.15 instead of 9.30, so you see we are in clover. I’ve a reasonably nice room in which I’ve stowed myself and belongings with difficulty. After today I shant see much of the Normans, which I dont regret. They talk about the crisis a good deal, & I’m sorry to say I’ve nearly had a quarrel with a foul little doctor about whether Winston had any sense of decency or not. {2} I feel resigned and detached about the prospect of these next few weeks, but I miss you horribly. I’ll finish tomorrow. Goodnight, I hope you are dining somewhere and having fun. {3}

The noise is awful in this place, I hadnt realised that apparently the most vital railway from the whole world to the front passes within 20 yards of us, also ambulances drive up from time to time. I’m just going to have breakfast. Sir Heinrich has to pass all my letters so I shall feel a certain reluctance to write every day to you, but I daresay I shall become quite brazen about this. {4}

I’ve been into Boulogne and seen Frances, who has again been very anxious about Edward who has had a temp of 104, he’s better to-day.

My darling: Joseph is one of the most tedious writers I’ve ever come across. I tried him last night and found it anything but stimulating, or is it that all forms of religion, and the observances which accompany them & to which the religious attach so much importance, are bound to appear very foolish to someone like me. Still it doesnt matter as its not going to affect you or me afterwards.

I’ve just got your telegram {5} (11·30) thank you so much, I wonder when I shall get a letter from you. I’ll confess to you at once that I feel very much bored at the prospect in front of me, but then one always feels like that for the first few days, I shall soon become thoroughly happy in my new surroundings.

Write me every scrap of political gossip you can find, also any war news, as you know I never read the papers so I rely on you.

The doctors are mostly half casts† and very squalid looking.

This is worthy of your collection of letters at Cambridge its every bit as boring. What fun we had then. I wish I was back in England.

My love to you always

Venetia

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Partly written in pencil (see below).

{1} ‘Not … didnt I?’ is written below the printed address in pencil. The brackets have been supplied.

{2} The allusion is to Churchill’s handling of the Dardanelles campaign.

{3} The writing changes from ink to pencil here.

{4} A new sheet begins here. What follows was written slightly later.

{5} This does not survive.

† Sic.

Letter from Venetia Stanley to Edwin Montagu

[The British Hospital, Wimereux.]—Rain has prevented her from going out today. Has spent most of the day attending a dying man [cf. A1/129]. Montagu’s letter has just come. Discusses her feelings about the preparations for their marriage and her reasons for staying at the hospital.

Letter from Venetia Stanley to Edwin Montagu

[Eleven miles from Wimereux.]—Has just had a motorcycle accident, but is in good spirits.

[The British Hospital, Wimereux.]—On her return to the hospital she was confined to bed for the afternoon. Is meeting Oliver and Anthony tomorrow; Gilbert has gone away for a week.

Letter from Venetia Stanley to Edwin Montagu

[The British Hospital, Wimereux.]—(15th.) Is still convalescing. Anthony is coming to see her tomorrow. Her mother has written to say that she has spoken to Montagu and thinks they should settle their affairs quickly. Refers to the religious fervour of a letter Montagu once received from his sister, and wonders if she will meet any of his family when she returns to England.—(16th.) There is general delight at the news of renewed fighting and expected work, but it may prevent Anthony’s visit.

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